Laboratory of Neuroimmunology and Behaviour

Research focus
In recent years there has been a growing appreciation that the immune system modulates neuronal function and is capable of driving changes in complex behaviours. Chronic neuropathic pain is characterised by both sensory and affective disturbances, and is considered to have a neuro-immune component. Nerve injury induces activation of immune and immune-like glial cells that in turn release inflammatory cytokines, a process that occurs at multiple levels of the neuraxis and is increasingly recognised in the brain.

My laboratory aims to investigate the role of neuro-immune interactions in driving debilitating affective disturbances, such as altered social interactions, cognitive dysfunction and reduced motivation in neuropathic animals. Our latest work has uncovered a distinct neuro-immune signature characterised by an elevated adaptive immune response in the peripheral tissues of a sub-group of nerve-injured rats that display disabilities in social interactions.

Through our improved understanding it is hoped immunotherapeutic approaches such as enhancement, depletion or adoptive transfer of specific immune cell populations or blockade of cytokine signaling, will be able to correct such behaviours.